#newsrw - Organising the Social Media Chaos

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Suw Charman-Anderson hosting. Four people who are using crowd-sourcing and user-generated content and who can give us some idea of how you can verify that information

**Neal Mann ****– **@fieldproducer

Neal Mann

Twitter is Reuters on acid, crack and cocaine. We have to ignore that chaotic aspect and pull out information that’s of value to us. We have beat journalists who distill information – that’s our job as journalists. We can use Twitter in the same way, with a structure way of dealing with it. He treats Twitter as his path. “I’m casting a net across twitter.” If something happens in Yemen, I follow six journalists from Yemen. They tweet it, and we can jump on it half an hour before it hits the wire. Twitter is only chaotic is you treat it in a chaotic way.

You need to be following the key nodes for information – the people who are constantly sharing the best information on Twitter. He has a list of about 2,000 because anything less than that and he’ll start missing things. Twitter is an echo chamber – things get retweeted, so if you miss it once, you’ll see it very quickly.

However – you also need to become one of those nodes. He’s had many tipoffs from people because they’ve built a relationship with people using Twitter over months. People see Twitter as a chat room. As a journalists I see it as a newswire and a news publishing medium. He takes a structured approach to how he publishes – people are interested in news. Within social media there are a people interested in a range of stories, from crime to fashion. I need to become to the go-to source for a particular subject in the build-up to an event. When he was covering the Julian Assange bail story, he spend the weeks before tweeting links to relevant stories.

Alex Gubbay, social media producer, BBC News

Alex GubbayThe opportunities are huge: you can get content more quickly, and direct from the scene. The challenge is verification. As a “mainstream” broadcaster they need to be rigorous in their fact checking. It’s an evolving approach, and they are lucky to have a dedicate team. For the first couple of years it was all about processing material sent directly to them. As social media has grown, they’ve moved to curating the wider web.

Gives and example of a video of a fire. How do you check? Traditional methods, sure, but you can also use Google Street View to check the video matches what you can see on the ground. They did some verification – it matched up, so they sent a news crew.

The arab spring has brought this to a new level. They need to get more sophisticated. Often you can’t get hold of people, people are trying to push an agenda. But the footage is important, and if we can’t get correspondents in, they are the only source. You can compare against existing images and maps, you can compare with weather reports. You can use local expertise (or language expertise). And KEEP A LIST of the things you’ve verified.  Look for clues like number plates, weapons, that sort of thing.

Take you time, use forensic values, make sure you get it right.

Fergus Bell, senior producer, Associated Press

Effective monitoring is knowing which tool and which site to use in the right situation. Not all countries use Twitter or YouTube. Think about the sort of person that will be sharing relevant material, and think which platforms they will be using. Facebook is your safest bet. Sometimes you can’t get to the right person – but you can get to one of their friends.

Fregus Bell

He uses Hootsuite – finds it the best. Don’t be loyal to one app. Use the thing is the best for the job.

Fergus disagrees with Neal – he doesn’t like to follow people, he chooses to put them in lists and following the lists. By following people “you increase the chaos”. “There are people in my lists that I don’t want to know that I’m following them”. Extreme right wing groups, for example. He doesn’t want to tip his hand to them. You don’t need to build all the lists yourself – many people have already done that work for you. You can also build lists of “nodes” – people who are doing pre-filtering. He has Neal on a list for that reason…

You can keep lists Private – if you see your list as a competitive advantage KEEP IT PRIVATE.

Verification: it’s very hard to fake a social history. Sometimes just looking back at what people have posted previously will be very revealing. So don’t just verify the content – verify the individual. If we reach out to people and expecting them to provide the truth, we also need to verify ourselves. Don’t have an egg (the default icon) on your Twitter page. You wouldn’t ask them for information with your face covered. You have to gain the trust of people you want to get information from. You have to respect how they shared it. The AP waits until they have confirmation that people have given permission to republish.

**Nicola Hughes, **data journalist, Data Miner UK

Nicola Hughes

There are huge peaks of information on twitter. Some tools can’t cope because of API limits. You are looking for a link – to an image, video, blog post or local news report. The first thing you want to do is filter down to the location that the story is coming from. Your best tool is TrendsMap. Hahtags are your guide, follow the hastag to the original location. Look for “beacons” – often key links to shared media. It’s best to work in an application that shows you the media within the application, as time is of the essence.

(Aside: this is a session where watching the video will be invaluable)

Topsy is your next best friend. It’ll show you links over time – if the earliest link is too early, it’s not genuine. You can check locations based on Twitter location info, if their using it – or Foursquare checkins…Using these techniques, she’s been able to track down individuals on the ground, and contact them via mobile phone and get them to do reporting directly.

You need to make a name for yourself on the internet, but you may need to make a name. Nicola Hughes is hard to find, @dataminerUK isn’t.

Lanyrd – great tool for finding out what events people you are interested in will be at…

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.